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lairlog collage

The collage above is actually the collaged cover of our Lair Log that we keep in our guest room and in which our guests write about their encounter with the land and wildlife here. It is a wonderful collection of poems, letters, notes, cards and photographs that are a delight for us and our guests to read. We will share occasional excerpts from The Lair Log as well as from the Nature Journal that we keep about special encounters with nature at The Lair.

One Sunday Farris and I were rocking on the front porch, looking out over the sun-filled land which was hazy and lazy looking, when suddenly, a beautiful big Red-tailed Hawk arose from one of our meadows with a four foot snake clutched in his talons! He circled and soared quite a while with the snake dangling and only flew away with it when another hawk came and showed interest in his prey. I learned later that a bird of prey with a snake in its beak or talons is a symbol of the impossible combination of heaven and earth, a perfect blending of the spiritual and the material--and there, we had that symbol acted out in real life right in front of our eyes!

Black Crested Titmouse

November 26, 2010: Three months this summer were spent washing and processing the nine fleeces that I ended up with and also "ginning" the cotton as shown in the pictures in the previous entry below. Here is a picture of the results:

fleeces and cotton
The blue containers in front and the sacks on them contain the cotton with the seeds removed.
The two bags behind the left cotton containers contain  Rambouillet fleeces; the bag on the ground
in the middle contains a black "mystery fleece" while the bag with writing on it behind contains
three American Hampshire lamb fleeces. The two bags on the right behind the cotton contain a fleece
from a Barbodo hair sheep. It is coarse and has straight guard hairs and I think is most suitable
for a crocheted rug, perhaps. I was able to get all the outside work of trimming, sorting and washing
the fleeces done before the really hot weather began.

I have bought a Beka rigid heddle loom and recently started the learning curve to learn to weave. It is going to take a while and I have had to drop knitting off because I just don't have time for all my interests.  I will continue to crochet and spin as soon as I learn how to weave well enough to return to my regular schedule. I need the weaving to help me use some of the yarns I am spinning. There is no weaving teacher here but I have received help from various website and people online and have a DVD  and books. This is a simple loom but there is much that can be accomplished with it.

Mitch has put me on Facebook and Twitter and has set up a new blog for me on Wordpress. I find the word blog to be ugly; I much prefer the terms  journal or log. As far as Facebook and Twitter, I will try them because as he pointed out, he has not been wrong yet when he pulled me kicking and screaming into a new electronic adventure. I am at the age where I prefer the familiar and suddenly this web site and Lair Log seem like old trusted friends.

May 1, 2010: I won't even try to enumerate the reasons why I have not written in the Lair Log for so long. Suffice it to say that Life interfered and so did the upgrade to Windows 7 on my PC, courtesy of my most appreciated gurus, son Mitch and his wife, Tresa. I am very pleased with Windows 7. I am always less than pleased with all the work involved in upgrading, having to learn new paths of work and so on, but it seems we have survived and hopefully I can get back to periodically updating my web site.

I have been spinning in preparation to starting my larger freeform crochet/knit project, my vest. That is just part of today's  story, the more usual part. Here comes the unusual part. My cousin Joyce who lives in Michigan and who is a whiz at any kind of needle art is responsible for getting me into knitting again, which reminded me I love to crochet, and her spinning whetted my interest in that subject with the result that I learned to spin on hand spindles and my beloved Ashford Traveller and  Ashford Traditional wheels. Just as my friends who have gotten tattoos tell me that they are addicting, that one seldom stops at having one, so it is with those who spin and weave, they (we) seldom stop with one wheel, spindle, or loom. The second wheel is for me to spin lace weight yarn.

As I have mentioned before, I find spinning marvelously soothing, especially spindle spinning. I wrote Joyce a few weeks ago that I love spinning so much that I wish I had a room full of fiber just waiting for me to spin it. I continue to work on creating the yarn for my vest, but in the meantime, I became a member of a local prayer group that meets weekly expressly to pray for those with mood disorders, their families and loved ones.  Such prayer groups dedicated to that subject and those who suffer from such disorders as depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are very much needed...anyone who reads this and feels a stirring of interest might well think about  the possibility of starting such a group at their church. The one I belong to is open to those with various mood disorders and their loved ones and friends.  It is strictly a prayer group, not a treatment group but we believe there is a Great Physician who can help bring the ability to cope and a measure of  healing to those who suffer. There are many such resources for those with addictions but few for those with emotional or mood disorders.

One day,  Michele, the facilitator of our group told me she had seen a woman on television spinning Himalayan cat hair and since she has a cousin with two Himalayan cats, she had asked her to save some of the cat hair for me. I have spun Mitch's Husky dog Tasha's hair as I documented previously in this Lair Log, but I have never even thought of spinning cat hair. However, in time Margo, in Florida at the time,  sent me the cat hair from Jake and Stan, her two beloved cats. It is soft and silky and it spun easily and beautifully. I decided to make her a keepsake with the yarn  and had enough to make her a bookmark, and a mug rug to put her tea or coffee cup on. You can see them here:

 cathair keepsakes
Bookmark and mug rug made of 100% Himalayan cat hair, hand spun and crocheted.
Margo is generously still providing me with Jake and Stan's brushings, and I
plan to mix some of it with silk.

A few days after  I was told that I would be getting cat hair to spin, my neighbor, bless him, arrived with a huge sack containing three fleeces from the American Hampshire lambs he had shorn. His nephew showed them recently so the fleeces are nice and clean and have even been washed once after shearing. Roy said a friend has some Rambouillet sheep (spinners love Rambouillet fiber) and that he had promised Roy a fleece for me when he shears them in April. Roy also said he knows someone who still has Angora goats and would give him a call to see if he can get me a mohair fleece. I would be thrilled to get any of those fibers.

About that time my sister Lynette and her husband Ray were planning to come from Louisiana for a visit. A few days before their visit she called and said that she had received a call from a woman whom she does not know who had obtained her name from the owner of the yarn shop Lynette patronizes in a town 40 miles away.  The shop owner thought Lynette was a hand spinner. The lady had some natural brown cotton her deceased father had grown, and her mother had painstakingly taken the seeds out of some of it by hand, but the rest still has the seeds and she was looking for someone who would want and appreciate the cotton and make use of it.  Lynette is learning to weave but at that time she did not spin (she now has a wheel and is learning to spin), so Lynette called and asked  me if I wanted the cotton. Naturally colored unprocessed cotton is prized by those who like to spin cotton. (Remember, I told  you about the vendor from whom I was ordering the Indian Tahkli supported spindle for spinning cotton who remarked "Life is too short to spin cotton, Rheba, but if you really want it I will sell it to you.") Of course I said yes I would like to have the cotton. When Lynette and Ray unloaded their SUV, they brought into my house forty-seven  POUNDS of cotton, eight pounds of which had the seeds removed! Now, think of a cotton ball and how little it weighs in the palm of your hand. I have forty-seven pounds of cotton in six huge bags climbing up the wall in the corner of my spinning room. It is difficult indeed to render me speechless but I was struck dumb--for a few seconds. My first thought was that the little bunnies and baby mice and rats were going to have plush homes on the Lair this year. I had just received my Wild Fibers magazine and remembered an ad I had seen for a site that sold cotton. I went to the site and there was a link there to a You Tube video clip of a woman removing seeds from cotton with of all things, a pasta making machine. We ordered a pasta maker and I have been busily "pasta ginning" cotton.

wool and cotton
The bag on the left is much larger than it looks in this picture.
It contains the three wool fleeces. The three bags in
the middle contain the remaining eight pounds of cotton
with the seeds removed ( I gave away a pound). The three bags on the right against the wall
contain the approximately 38 remaining pounds of cotton containing seeds.
Here is a picture of the cotton:

Notice the lovely tawny/cream color of these fibers; this is the natural color.
The seeds are black. The pile just out of the bag on the left has the seeds in it.
The pile of fibers above that has had the seeds removed.
The mesh bag on the right is where I put the de-seeded cotton so I can keep track of
how much I have cleaned. I weighed it and when full it holds two pounds of cotton.
Note the seeds in the blue wastebasket. Mitch thinks I am being wasteful to leave so  much fiber
on the seeds. If I put fewer seeds in at one time, they come out clean. However, thinking of the
Mt. Everest of cotton I have waiting for me to "gin" I go into production mode and can easily
spare the few fibers that cling to some of the seeds.

Here is how it is done:

cotton in pasta maker
Heavy denim is rolled part way into the pasta machine and the cotton is put at the edge of the rollers. In this
picture I have started rolling the cotton in.

Here you see the remaining seeds after the denim has
been rolled through and at the left you can see the cotton fibers
clinging to the denim.  I usually put in a larger amount
but I wanted this to come out clean so you can see the color of the seeds.
It is surprising how fast it goes.
I have already ginned two pounds and am working on another two.
At this speed racer pace I figure it will only take me a year and a half
to finish removing the seeds from all the cotton. Hey! It beats removing
each seed by hand!

This cotton is very short stapled, maybe a half inch or less. I carded some
on cotton cards and  made it into rolags called punis,
the traditional way to spin cotton. Cotton is hard
to spin but I will wager that Joyce and Lynette and I will be experts
at it before long. As reluctant as Joyce is to take any more of it,
I am going to have to figure some way to con her into taking more.
 I want to finish "ginning" it before I decide what to do with it all.
 I certainly will spin a lot of it.
This color will be gorgeous blended with honey colored tussah silk.
I want to blend some with wool as well.

I sent Joyce a pound (that is all she wanted, at least to begin with)
of the seeded cotton and this is the resulting sample of yarn that she spun:
sample yarn
This is Joyce's photo, I didn't take it.
Isn't this yarn  beautiful? She says this is barely
two ounces of the pound I sent her.

I have since been promised some border collie dog hair, Michele gave me some donkey hair to try to spin, it is very coarse but a lovely gray/white color. I have also been promised some mohair from another
source. As much as I have, I hope the mohair promises especially are fulfilled. I remarked to my family that I wish I had specified some silk fibers to help fill the room in my wish. Then I thought I had better not push, or someone might send me silk worms instead!

Until next time....

Last revised May 1, 2010

Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.